Scott Dixon continues slow and steady march to IndyCar title
Scott Dixon has been overshadowed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti for the past three-plus seasons and by Team Penske's Helio Castroneves for most of the past decade.
Dixon has had his moments in the sun, winning the 2003 and 2008 IZOD IndyCar Series championships and the 2008 Indy 500. He ranks second to Franchitti's 31 wins among active drivers with 28 and he's finished third or better in the championship in the past five seasons.
Those are remarkable, Hall of Fame-worthy numbers. But Franchitti has three Indy wins, including this year, and four championships since 2007. The Scotsman's celebrity also has been raised by his marriage to actress Ashley Judd. Castroneves is famous for three Indy 500 victories, winning ABC television's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007 and thumping the Internal Revenue Service with not guilty verdicts on multiple tax evasion charges in 2009.
Dixon has gone about his job and lived his life quietly, content away from the track to enjoy time with wife Emma and daughter Poppy and do his triathlon-regimen training. But he also knows when it's time to step up for a friend. After former Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon died in crash last fall at Las Vegas, Dixon packed up his family and rented a home in St. Petersburg, Fla., to be near widow Susie Wheldon so he and Emma could help her through the most difficult of times.
This is a man of character, strength and determination you want on your side in any situation. Dixon's has put those attributes to work in pursuing his career and they're reasons he's lasted 11 seasons with Ganassi, longer than any driver in team history.
Called the Iceman for his cool demeanor inside the race car early in his career, Dixon remains passionate about racing. As usual, he's in the middle of the IndyCar championship run entering the home stretch, four races to go. Dixon is fourth, trailing leader Ryan Hunter-Reay 362-301. Castroneves' 339 and Will Power's 336 also must be overtaken.
The IndyCar schedule lines up favorably for Dixon. The next stop is Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Penske's Power may be widely regarded as the best in the series on road and street courses, but Dixon has three wins in the five races IndyCar has had at Mid-Ohio.
"It's been a tremendous place for me and I think we can go there with a great chance," Dixon said. "It's an older kind of American circuit, like Watkins Glen, and with the flow to it, it's a place you can get extremely aggressive. You keep going and pull a little time out of it with every lap."
IndyCar also has races remaining at Sonoma Raceway, where Dixon won in 2007, on the streets of Baltimore and the finale at California Speedway in Fontana.
"I think we've got to go into each weekend as we would any other time," Dixon said. "We believe we can win the race. That's what we're in the sport for and the four races have been good tracks for us. I have no doubt we can win and believe we can win two of the four if not all of them.
"To make the kind of swing (in the points), not to wish any other team a little bad luck, but we need a little luck to swing it around. But it's definitely not out of the question. The pressure comes on towards the end. We have to try as hard and dig as deep as we can."
Dixon's lone victory this season has been on the Belle Isle street course in Detroit. He's had wins in eight straight seasons and the previous six have seen more than one. History would appear to be on his side in making a run at the title.
He's also been second at St. Petersburg, Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and, painfully, Indianapolis. But Dixon thinks more about the points that have been left on the table.
"We haven't capitalized at a lot of places," he said. "St. Pete was a great finish for us. I think we messed up on strategy at Barber, that should have been a race we won."
Dixon dropped out with a mechanical failure at Long Beach and finished 23, was caught up in a multi-car crash at Brazil and finished 17 and was second at Indianapolis. He led 133 laps at Texas, but crashed and was 18th.
"I should have complained more about how loose we were getting at Texas," Dixon said.
Dixon finished 11th at Milwaukee and knows he deserved far better. He was fast, running in the top 10 and headed for the front when IndyCar officials penalized him for jumping a restart. It was a mistake caused by the failure of the timing and scoring system that made them look at the wrong restart. IndyCar apologized, but it didn't regain those lost points.
"I got screwed on a bad call," Dixon said.
Dixon was fourth at Iowa, but lost his engine at Toronto and the 10-spot penalty on the grid for changing engines at Edmonton forced him to start 18th. In a race that went green the entire distance, Dixon was able to move up to 10th.
"The 10-spot penalty on the grid was disheartening," Dixon said. "We got penalized for racing hard and we've got people who are flat out cheating and getting $5,000 fines. None of the crimes fit the penalties. TK (Tony Kanaan) and Mike Conway ran larger fuel cells than allowed and were fined $5,000 and we blew an engine for racing and had a worst penalty than those who cheated."
Dixon has had two IndyCar championships slip through his grasp in the closing laps of the season.
In 2007, Dixon was leading on the final lap in turn four of the final race at Chicagoland and ran out of fuel. Franchitti, driving for Andretti Green, drove past him to win the race and the title. In 2009, Dixon and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe were racing for the lead with the championship at stake and lapped the field. Franchitti went on a different fuel strategy and when Dixon and Briscoe had to stop, won the race and the championship.
"That's racing," Dixon said. "But I've had great finishes. I think I've had better results the past five years than everybody but Dario (Franchitti), I've been in the championship fight in all but last year.
"I've only just turned 32 and I hope the best years of my career are ahead."